Gifts from My Father

dad

My Dad

As Father’s Day approaches, many of us are considering what to give our fathers. Amazon is convinced I should buy him a new Fire TV setup (I haven’t had the heart to tell them he wouldn’t want it). Personalization Mall really feels like he needs a personalized tie and Best Buy believes I don’t love him unless I get him a laptop.

As a father myself, I have come to the conviction that Father’s Day should be all the more about what we as fathers can do to serve our wives, our children, and our community. It is good to celebrate fatherhood and fathers. There are few more daunting tasks than to be a good father.

I did not buy my dad a Father’s Day present, as is my custom. It is not a sign of ingratitude, I’ve never been much on giving gifts (sorry Amazon). In many ways, this is not as much a celebration of what I can do for my father and more of a memorial for what he has done for me. This Father’s Day, let’s take a walk back and remember what I have been given by my father.

His Work Ethic

My dad did something truly amazing. Superman may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but my dad did something even better. He got up early every morning and trudged to a job he didn’t like because he loved us. Dad worked for years with difficult people and frustrating demands. He rarely complained to us, but I know the toll that took on him.

That sort of work ethic is commendable, even excellent. I strive to live up to that. Thank you dad for that gift.

His Love of Learning

One of dad’s better kept secrets is his deep intelligence. He reads more than anyone I know. One of the jokes from our childhood is how rich we would be if dad had just been willing to go on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (answer: we would have been millionaires). He introduced me to some of the greatest authors out there including C. S. Lewis, Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur C. Clark, H. G. Wells, and many more. I am a little bitter that I had to find The Lord of the Rings on my own, but I have since forgiven him.

In addition, he was able to speak intelligently on most topics in science and in particular space. Dad always had a secret dream of being an astronaut. He even applied to be the teacher on the Challenger Mission in 1986. Being that it blew up on lift-off, I am glad he didn’t win.

To this day, I still call dad and we chat about science and history and whatever is on our minds. Thanks dad.

His Love of Family

The classic Easop’s Fable of The Tortoise and the Hare ends with the mantra, “Slow and steady wins the race.” In that case, dad won. You will never find my dad creating a viral video where he break-dances or sings some Sinatra to my mom. He is not a flashy guy. A little uncomfortable in crowds, I doubt many of you know him the way we do.

Dad’s unwavering, determined, firm, and emphatic dedication to my mom is legendary. He is truly in love with her. He extends that dedication to us kids. Daily I am challenged to love my family to be faithful to them like that.

Thank you dad.

His Love of God

Many mornings I would wake up and find my dad sitting and reading his Bible. He was always conversant about any biblical topic I could bring up. Far from being an intellectual snob, he never once treated a question of mine as stupid (though some of them were, in fact, stupid). Certainly I was overwhelming to him at times, but he was always respectful with me.

The patience and dedication of God showed through in his life. The challenge has been laid to me to give to my family in the same way.

Thank you dad.

For Being My Dad

This Father’s Day I don’t want to celebrate what I can give my dad but rather to celebrate what I have been given from my dad. The debt I owe is beyond repayment, but being my dad, he has always told me to pay it by caring for my own children well. For the rest of my life, the work he did for me will, by the goodness of God, echo for a thousand generations to come.

One day, my dad will stand in Heaven. There will be a crowd there but dad will be off to the side. He never really liked crowds. He will see 10,000 men and women walking by who will each and every one will owe him deeply for the sacrifices he made. Generation after generation of those who will now know that pains, trials, and joys he experienced to bring them to Heaven as well. They will know because dad’s Father in Heaven will have told them. You see, He promised to exalt the humble.

These are the gifts from my father.

-Chip

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Entitled to Nothing, Given Everything

man-prayingOn October 5, 2007 at 2 AM, I was afraid. Sitting in a car in Fridley, MN I prayed.

“Lord, don’t take my son. Please, don’t take my son.”

My wife was 28 weeks pregnant. We were in a strange city on a very stormy night. My wife is in labor and my son is in serious danger. 28 weeks is way too early. I didn’t know the exact risks, but I knew they were serious.

Sitting in the car and soaked with the pouring rain, I looked toward the upper floors of Unity Hospital. My wife was there and I was sure she was scared. What can I do to support her? If I were in some movie I would promise that everything would be just fine. But she and I both know that I have no power to keep that promise.

I got out of the car and ran through the rain. Hurrying back to the floor, we met with the obstetrician who was working that night. he explained that the baby was coming and that he was quite premature.

“Tell me the worst case scenario” I said.

“Well, the blood vessels in his brain are fragile and when he is delivered, if any of them were to burst, he could have serious brain damage.”

Oddly, it was good to know what the worst was.

Unity Hospital was not equipped to deal with a child that premature so they asked for Children’s Hospital to send an ambulance so that the baby could be sent to Children’s right away. Unfortunately, the ambulance was busy on another call. The staff slowed Sam’s labor in the hopes of putting off the delivery until they arrived.

It was over two hours before they arrived and Sam was allowed to labor. shortly thereafter, at 4:57 AM, my son was born. He let out a loud cry which to this day brings tears. He was gently put into what I call the Baby Baker (an incubator on a stretcher) and was whisked away to Children’s hospital.

We named him Chase after me. He was Charles Gruver IV.

I tell this story to ask a question: Does God owe me Chase?

We heard lines like “God wouldn’t let him die” and “just believe that he will be fine.” These were meant to be comforting, but they weren’t. We knew that throughout the Bible God not only allowed terrible things to happen, sometimes he commanded them. God could have stopped Herod from killing every child under two in Bethlehem, but he didn’t.

The fact is, terrible things happen to believers and to their children. God does not spare his children from suffering, even awful suffering. I recently was reading on the Holocaust and there is a picture of a Hungarian Jewish mother walking with her two young sons on their way to the gas chamber. Was God wronging them? He could have saved them from the gas chamber.

As heartwrenching as it is, the answer is that we are God’s and he can do with us as he pleases. That night, I knew that God could take my son and he would not be wrong to do so. Chase was not mine. He was God’s and I was begging for the privilege of caring for him.

Despite the months of fear, this story has a happy ending. Chase is alive and well today. God did grant my request and he spared my son. The happier ending is that Chase and I are believers, we will live with Jesus forever. One day he will not be simply my son, but a brother who will turn one million the same year I turn one million twenty-four.

As frightening as it is to know that God could take Chase at any time, it is also freeing. God is not random chance. If he takes Chase from me, he has a purpose. Far from being meaningless, God’s actions are deeply meaningful. That is full of meaning!

The heartbreak we feel should be felt. The pain in this world is because of sin but it is also in the hands of a Father who loves us. We are allowed to grieve, but we “may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” If God had taken Chase, it is in the end for my joy.

So brothers and sisters, do not hang onto your things, children, spouses, jobs, and friends as if God would wrong you if he took it away. That is a recipe for losing your faith when he does take it away. Instead give him everything. Know that it is his to start with and be thankful that he has let you enjoy them.

The strange part is that when I give them up, I am more thankful for them. Tonight is not just any night, it is one of the finite number of evenings I get to spend with my wife in this world. Maybe it is even the last one. How grateful I am for each one!

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 14, A Plea to Fathers

child_fearFor many (if not most) men who struggle with porn, the person who introduced them is not who you might think. It is not that group of boys mom always told us to stay away from. It isn’t that creepy guy on the street corner. It is most likely not even the internet.

It was dad.

Our dad’s didn’t mean to introduce us in most cases. It is often a boy finding his dad’s stash of porn. Sometimes it is that dad now thinks that since his son is thirteen, it is somehow OK to let him see nudity in a movie. We walk into the restroom and there he is, looking at porn.

Whatever our father’s intentions, we were exposed. Slowly the roots of this sin sunk deep into our hearts. Soon we were more deeply ensnared than our father’s ever dreamed.

Not only did they introduce us to porn, but they also lost all credibility with us. Dad looking at porn and he is strictly warning me not to look at porn. They failed to confess their own sin and in doing so, they taught us how to cover up our sin. The moment we needed them to stand strong for us and strongly tell us how dangerous this path is, they cannot. The would not.

Jesus had some very strong language for just such a situation.

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. (Luk 17:1-2 ESV)

Let the weight of that sink in. Let it pull on your neck. Imagine hurtling toward the water and a certain drowning. The water rushes over your face. In your fear, you forgot to take a deep breath before you went under the surface. You scream and the last air you will ever breath leaves your lungs. Sinking, you keep sinking. The terror of this moment fills your mind. There is a deep pressure and hunger in your chest, but no air to fill it. Your thinking gets fuzzy. You pass out. You die.

It would be better to do that than cause a little one to sin.

So now most of us are fathers. It’s our turn to carry this mantle and to set the path for our children. Are we doing any better? It seems that we are doing worse! Now instead of a magazine, they slip from their rooms late at night and watch us masturbate in the light of a computer screen. We are guiding them into hell.

Gentlemen, be afraid. This warning is for you. Those little hands and feet will do what you do, say what you say, look at what you look at. We can do better. Here are my thoughts on how to keep millstones off your neck.

Repent

Read my article How Do I Stop Looking at Porn and get the first steps of your repentance going. It is no good to your family if you can’t get a handle on your porn problem. Jesus has the grace you need. It really is a question of whether you will take it.

Tell Your Kids About Your Struggle With Porn

The way to struggle and not be a hypocrite is to be honest. When our fathers told us to avoid porn and kept looking at it themselves, they lost all credibility with us. The way to get it back is to tell them how much pain it has caused you. Have your wife sit with you. Let her talk about how much this has hurt her as well. If you let your kids see the pain that this has caused, you set for them a deep and powerful warning of this danger. You will have served them well.

But When Do I Tell Them?

This is difficult, but here are some good rules of thumb. The average Western child is exposed to porn at age eleven so I think you really should have this conversation by age eleven if not sooner. If your kid is thirteen, he is most likely looking at porn already so this should be addressed. If he is fifteen or older, get up right now and talk with him. Your time is short and your son is an addict waiting to happen and your daughter has about a 1/4 chance of being one as well. Talk with them right away.

I know that this is a hard thing. It is humiliating. It is necessary. Have the courage to talk with them.

Tell Your Daughters Too

It may seem like this conversation is only important for your sons, but it is key to also have it with your daughters. She is going to run into men who struggle with porn in her life. She needs a good example of how someone fights their own pornography problem.

Dad, enter stage left.

If you set this good example, she will be much better equipped to see men and understand how they should be behaving. She’ll know because her dad showed her. This is key for her as she is selecting the most important man in her life, her husband. Guess what dad, he will have a porn problem at least 85% of the time. She needs to be ready for that.

The other reason your daughter needs to know is that there is about a 1/4 chance that she will struggle with pornography as well. You need to set a good example for her of how to deal with it. Please, please tell your daughters of your struggle.

Keep Talking About It

There is this myth out there that any discussion about sex is a single conversation. In reality, your kids will have many, many conversations about sex. The question is how many of them will be with you. Take a good look at your kid’s friends, are they the ones you want educating your son. I hope not.

This requires courage and conviction. Keep talking about sex, porn, sexting, and how it impacts their lives. I think there is a generation that is getting most of their sexual knowledge from the porn industry. We need to change that.

The Cross

Remember that none of us are up to this. You and I can’t carry this load. It is too heavy for us. We will fail. But God can succeed through us. Love your kids enough to have these conversations. You will find the strength to do that by looking hard and deep at the cross. See how much he did for you. He went through hell for you. He loved you so deeply that he willingly had nails driven through his hands and feet for you.

Now go and love your kids like that.

-Chip

P.S. I should be clear that I was not introduced to porn by my dad. I am the sort of sinner who doesn’t need help to find porn. So the content of this article has little to do with him. He taught me how to love a woman deeply, not how to stare at images of other women.